As more and more people wish to leave the lightest of footprints on their travels, destinations are rising to the challenge. A pioneer in sustainably paving the way for other countries is Palau, where visitors must pledge on arrival to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the Micronesian archipelago. Other sustainable tourism destinations are protecting natural resources, reducing energy consumption and preserving cultural integrity.
France is scattered with enchanting cities and towns with an eco-friendly tourism philosophy. Nantes is dedicated to repurposing abandoned urban spaces, from reimagining old banana warehouses as hip bars and restaurants, to transforming Île de Nantes from industrial shipyard to cultural hub. Angers, at the edge of the Loire Valley, has more than its fair share of green space, while Renne – the capital of Brittany – is a grow-your-own hotspot filled with flower gardens, vegetable plots and artisanal workshops. Famed for its wonderfully preserved Roman amphitheatre, Nîmes is as dedicated to the future as the past, protecting its historic core with traffic restrictions and public transport systems. Elsewhere, Dordogne is crammed with eco-friendly accommodation, Provence has a fine farm-to-table movement, and Loire Valley is preserved under UNESCO World Heritage status.
Chateau Beaucharm in Champagne promotes sustainable living.
The UK is rallying together to achieve carbon-neutrality, from the National Trust planning to plant 20 million trees over the next decade, to the UK’s committed investment in wind power. Sustainable travel destinations can be found along the length and breadth of the nation: Scotland has an ambitious project to restore the native woodlands, peatlands and rivers of Cairngorms national park, while the Cotswolds is a champion for the seasonal locavore food movement. Wales manages to walk the tightrope between tourism and conservation, from e-bike schemes for touring Elan Valley and marine-life protection centres in New Quay to a trio of national parks cloaking a fifth of Wales’ land surface.
With a staggering 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the highest in the world – Italy has planted a seed of ecotourism to sprout for future generations. Piedmont preserves a slow-food culture to appreciate the bounty of its land without destroying the natural habitat, while Sicily was one of the first places in Europe to create marine-protected zones and uses the same traditional farming methods today that have existed for centuries. Other wonderful sustainable tourism destinations include the Italian Lakes, whose natural beauty is best appreciated on bike or foot, and Tuscany and Puglia for their rich cultural heritage and rural viniculture.
Villa Ciottolo in Puglia is committed to renewable and green energy.
The Balearics are an ecological treasure trove. The spine of Mallorca is the UNESCO-protected Serra de Tramuntana, whose mountains not only offer cycling and hiking galore, but also provide natural resources for renewable energy. Mallorca’s sister island, Ibiza, is emerging as a year-round wellness destination, spreading the weight of tourism throughout the year. More than just a party hotspot, the White Isle is full of pristine nature reserves, including the untouched sea and coastal landscapes of Ses Salines Natural Park. Another Spanish archipelago determined to preserve the environment is the Canary Islands. Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park is a great example of eco-friendly tourism, where visitors can appreciate the lunarlike volcanic landscapes responsibly.
Champagne-coloured sandy beaches, vibrant cities, fine wine – it’s easy to see why Portugal has emerged as a travel hotspot in recent years. Though tourism has been a game-changer for the economy, this has not been without a cost. Local residents and businesses, in particular in Lisbon and Porto, have found themselves priced out of neighbourhoods. However, the government acknowledged the boom wasn’t sustainable, pledging to put locals first and spread tourism across the country and the seasons. They must be doing something right, as Lisbon scooped the 2020 European Green Capital Award for its excellent public transport, bike-sharing scheme and plentiful green space.